Police have fined a man in a shopping centre car park in Jeddah for wearing a beret, in the first enforcement of Saudi Arabia’s beret ban.
The 48-year-old man was stopped by police in the car park in the Akbar Shopping precinct, north-west of Tahlia Street, at 5.30pm on Monday, the day the beret ban came into force. Police said he was stopped “without incident” for a few minutes and given a 600 Riyals (€110) fine. He has one month to pay or have his hand chopped off.
Under the law backed by King Abdullah, it is illegal for females in full-face veils or males in thobe dresses to wear a beret on their heads in public, including walk down the street, entering shops, using public transport, attending public executions or prayers at the mosque. They face a fine or a citizenship class.
On Tuesday morning a woman in a full-face veil wearing a French beret on her head was stopped by police after she tried to enter a Louis Vuitton shop, north of Jeddah. Followed by a Saudi TV crew, she had attempted to purchase a handbag just before 11am. She was refused by officials on the grounds that she was wearing a French beret. On the way out police asked her to remove her beret from her head.
When she refused she was taken to a local police station, where she lifted her beret off her head but insisted on putting it back on again. She was not fined but the Saudi Times reported that she had been given a written reminder and a leaflet explaining that French berets were no longer allowed in public and she risked a fine or even a whipping.
Saudi officials are also cracking down on illegal French beret imports that are smuggled into the country on camels from the desert.
“We are finding evidence of an illicit trade in French berets, and we have also discovered lots of garlic as well as frog’s legs in tins on some shipments. For the sake of our citizens, we are coming down hard on these smugglers who are corrupting our borders with their illegal trade,” Muftafer Al-Amin, Jeddah’s Chief of Police told the Saudi Times.
French berets on the Saudi black market can now fetch thousands of dollars, and have now become a valuable commodity to some who hold secret French beret parties in their homes.